Roger Alton’s e-mails after The Observer published its four-page spoof lampooning September 11 and its aftermath are a revelation.
The editor of The Observer has been lambasted for the content of Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris’s compilation, Six Months that Changed a Year, in almost equal measure with a surfeit of praise. The horror-struck are slightly to the fore in the 40 samples that Press Gazette saw.
Americans were predictably scandalised but it was not entirely a US/UK sense of humour divide. Many readers here did not appreciate disparaging such a devastating tragedy so soon after the event.
Alton said he was not aware of any dissension among his staff over publishing the pull-out and had not had discussions with them beforehand. "I like to uphold democracy but I don’t like to practise it," he commented.
It was his and joint deputy editor John Mulholland’s decision he said. Guardian and Observer staff e-mails of congratulation bore this out.
The Observer’s supporters were more inclined to say brilliant, a godsend, "thank you for four pages of scurrilous, life-enhancing bad taste".
However, the anti-spoof brigade must have given Alton something to think on. Comments ranged from "a despicable piece of humanity", "plumbed new depths", "mind garbage of thirty somethings trying to be clever", insensitive and tasteless to a suggestion that he might next like to tackle the holocaust or Daniel Pearl’s last days. One said: "How loathsome you are to abuse the high calling of journalism by running such execrable tripe." A New York reader put it succinctly: "F– you most sincerely."
By Jean Morgan